Today, indie developer notdead LLC launched COMPOUND—a randomized, rogue-lite, free-roaming shooter for Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. With difficulty settings ranging from easy and medium to hard and spicy, you can play your way—and for those of us who want to interact with everything the virtual world has to offer, you’ll be pleased to know that the food items are indeed consumable. But perhaps most striking is the game’s unique pixelated aesthetic.
We sat down with solo dev Bevan McKechnie to learn more about this project that’s six years in the making. Read on for some behind-the-scenes goodness, and then head over to our Developer Blog where he shares some lessons learned with the broader VR developer community.
What was your first experience with VR? What motivated you to design and build your own VR game?
Bevan McKechnie: I can very vividly remember gameplay videos of Budget Cuts and development videos of Hotdogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and being completely blown away by the apparent immersion and potential for complex and realistic interaction simply not possible with conventional game inputs. Just before I finally got a headset for myself, I was worried that I was “overhyped” and setting myself up for disappointment, only to find my very high expectations were exceeded by this incredible technology.
I knew right away that I wanted to try developing for this new platform, but it wasn’t until I played the excellent Vertigo that I realized artificial locomotion and the FPS format were a better fit for VR than I had anticipated, and work on COMPOUND started immediately after.
COMPOUND was in development for about six years, right? Any favorite anecdotes to share from during that time?
BM: The entirety of COMPOUND’s development was publicly accessible as an “early access” title, and I can’t count the number of times direct player feedback improved the game in ways I never would have thought of myself. Finding solutions to players’ problems and demands in ways that fit with my vision of the game was also an incredibly interesting challenge. For me, the best part of the development of COMPOUND was the organic interaction between myself and the community and how that guided the game’s progress forward until it eventually reached completion.
Who did you work with on the soundtrack and sound design? What was that experience like?
BM: All of the music was created by the very talented SPEEDBLACK, and I’m very grateful to him for reaching out to me. His music is a very important part of COMPOUND’s identity, and I can’t imagine what it would be like without it.
He contacted me right after I had uploaded the first prototype gameplay footage to Reddit. I must admit, I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt, and I even tried to refuse his offer, which in retrospect was almost a huge mistake. Luckily for me, he wasn’t easily discouraged and put together an incredible track to go with the map I was creating at the time. I was blown away with how perfectly it matched how I imagined the music should sound like in my head, despite me not telling him anything about it. It was clear this was the man for the job, and the rest is history.
What inspired you to make all the food in the game consumable?
BM: There’s something about food in computer games and art that has always appealed to me. To be perfectly honest, though, much like a lot of the design decisions that were made during the development of the game, it simply seemed like a fun idea at the time. I believe that making games should also be fun and spontaneous, as most players will be able to pick up on that. It’s also a lot more interesting than a generic medi-kit, and the act of bringing it to your mouth to eat is a fun interaction that can only be done in VR.
This is a passion project of yours. When you aren’t developing for VR, how do you spend your time?
BM: I do like to go to the gym and exercise, but I’ve never been good with sports—so apart from that, it’s all very nerdy stuff. I play a great deal of games, of course, but when time permits I also dabble in electronics, 3D printing, and recreational math. I also really enjoy watching all sorts of ’80s B-grade action and horror movies.
The notdead website hints at a second project in the works. Anything you can share on that front, or are you still keeping things pretty close to the vest?
BM: I don’t want to reveal too much in case I change my mind, but I definitely want to continue creating games for VR with my signature pixel look. I’ve already put together the bones of the next iteration with a much more sophisticated approach, which I can’t wait to show off. I’m also very eager to try my hand at more traditional, hand-crafted maps in a single-player campaign.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
BM: If you like retro shooters or challenging games or just think COMPOUND might be your kind of thing, then please check it out. Thanks for reading!